Remembering the Great Commission
We're called to introduce people to Jesus, but sometimes it seems that sometimes we forget. Sometimes, we end up introducing them to our club, to churchianity. To religion. Ewww.
They're looking for real relationship, and Jesus offering real relationship, but we're offering membership in a Sunday Morning Club complete with its own foreign language and foreign culture. "Bring your friends to church!" we are exhorted, forgetting the "Go" of the Great Commission.
Coming to faith does NOT require leaving your culture, leaving your language, leaving your community, leaving your music behind. (Yes, it does involve leaving your slavery behind.) For example, there's no need for a pipe organ or Taylor acoustic guiter in a tribal church in order for their gathering to be legit. They worship with drums; you don't have to!
Here's a radical thought: Christian pop music is by NO means the only music that's acceptable - or desirable. Some believers like barbershop quartets! Others touch God in metal music or Dixieland or Baroque or dance music.
I even know of a church that worshiped with (shudder!) country music! They would line dance in church! What?!? (And they shared the building with a church that worshiped with grunge rock music! What's up with that?)
I get it that some folks often can't go back to the culture that enslaved them for years, but let's distinguish between the slavery that held us captive and the preference of music the enslavers enjoyed while they practiced their torture upon our souls.
And since music reaches people, the Great commission applies to music: GO TO THEM. Do NOT expect them to come to you. So bring the gospel to their music; not Gospel music, but the "Good News" of the Kingdom: that belongs in THEIR music, too. There's no need for them to leave their love for Italian operas behind in order to meet Jesus.
Our commission is to go to them, and to bring the good news of the Kingdom to them.
Our job is NOT to bring them to our culture, our little club.
When we disciple folks, we are to make them followers of Jesus, not into MiniMe's.
I’ve been talking to other believers who have been arguing in favor of responding to terrorist violence with a violent (eg military) response. I understand that there are good and responsible arguments that can be made for using force against terrorism.
I'm not saying we should or shouldn't. I suspect that there are good arguments on both sides of that conversation. I am fortunate in that I don’t need to have the answer to that particular question.
However, I’ve been observing that when the Church faced its first terrorist, God didn't kill the terrorist. In fact, that terrorist, a maniacal Pharisee named Saul, became the apostle Paul, the greatest evangelist for the Kingdom of God in the history of the planet.
I'm not saying, "use force" or "don't use force" against terrorists.
But I think I'm ready to say, Whatever you do, pray for their conversion. Pray for a Damascus Road experience for whichever terrorist group has your attention right now.
If it is true (and it is) that "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," then there is going to be a revival of epic proportions in several places in the Earth as soon as those seeds hatch.
We'll need passionate people to lead it, and we'll need more of them than we have now.
Shoot them or don’t shoot them, as your conscience leads you. But for Heaven’s sake, do pray for them. Pray for their conversion. Pray that they meet the God of the Universe. And pray that he uses them in His Kingdom, like he used Paul.
That’s a response to terrorism with a good track record.
Borrowing an Anointing in Rizal Park
Connie says, “Just a moment, please. I’m almost done,” and explains that they need to believe, but rather than praying with them, she instructs those who want to follow Jesus to speak to Kim and tell her.
And I “shared the gospel” with a whole bunch of people. Actually, I attempted to share the gospel, but they saw me coming, and dodged me before I could talk with them. I didn’t lead a single person to faith. Actually, I didn’t even have a serious conversation with even one person that whole day.
The Father's Love
How often did their meanness make you want to get to know them? How many times did you want to spend time with your attacker after he punched your teeth in and shouted drunken insults at your mother? I don't remember my history books reporting a large influx of black Americans into the Ku Klux Klan after the massacre of black men, women and children just for their skin color. Maybe I missed that lesson.
Here's a really radical thought: God doesn't use those practices to get to know the precious children for whom he personally was beaten, accused, mocked and killed. The God who was murdered for their sins probably won't be judging people for the very sins that he just paid for, won't be hating the men and women he loved enough to die for, won't be killing your daughter with cancer and then demanding, "Love me, trust me, or burn in hell for eternity."
We've believed some pretty stupid things over the years. Let's not do that any more.
The Light in the Darkness
I’ve found that both places are excellent places to bring my laptop or a Bible and enjoy the Father’s healing presence and think creatively with him. The tavern is also hosting a number of Bible studies and “cell-group” type fellowships, so maybe the word is getting out.
I’ve also surprised myself with this discovery: the secular German band Rammstein is actually pretty good for worship. I can’t understand the words, so it’s as if it was instrumental music to me, and I enjoy the table prepared for intimacy with Father in that dark place.
The Revival at the End of the Age?
The end of the age will involve Jesus doing some things and it involves the Church doing some things. If the Church will focus on the person of Jesus rather than that part of the work that is His responsibility - if instead we will focus on doing the things that are OUR responsibility - then the work will be done sooner, and better, than it has been over the past couple of millennia.
The "Logic" of the Gospel
Let me explain, because this feels like the kind of statement that might trigger a response. My complaint is not with that tract, nor with using it to present the gospel. My complaint is with the the gospel that the tract supports.
I've used the 4 Laws a lot, and I've led many to Christ with that tract. It's a good tract, but it's still a tract. But it is fundamentally a logical argument to present the logic of the gospel: here are the reasons why you should pray this prayer and receive Christ. I believe that a logical presentation of the gospel is an inferior presentation because of this: anybody that I can logically persuade of something (for example, the gospel) can also logically be persuaded away from that position. There are too many men and women who were logically persuaded have experienced that and are no longer following Christ: they've been persuaded again.
And it's my observation (and if you watch American advertising, they’re convinced as well) that our culture is less interested in logic, less compelled by argument; hence my conclusion that the 4 Laws is less relevant: we no longer live in a logical culture.
In its place, I would suggest an encounter with the supernatural power of God might be a fine introduction to a God who loves them.
I have a close friend that had been faithful in a solid church. My friend, also Tom, was faithful, but dying on the vine. (Some would argue that "at least he was still on the vine" and there is merit to that argument.)
Only because of the encouragement of a friend and mentor, Tom and his wife Pat went to a meeting where a prophet was visiting. The prophet "busted him": spoke to the deep hidden issues that he hadn't shared with anybody but his wife. The prophet gently and lovingly told Tom the questions that he had been hiding, and then he answered them. Tom and Pat are changed people. For the 5 years since that encounter, they've been very excited about God, about the Word, about fellowship, about knowing God, about introducing others to God, about caring for lost sheep. They're so excited, they've written a book about their supernatural encounters with God.
I have, if anything, a higher regard for the Word than ever before. I studied the Word and I studied exegesis, and I use those skills and techniques regularly today. I teach the Word, and I teach how to study the Word (among other subjects).
But, you know, Jesus never persuaded anybody about his message. Logic had no part in His version of the gospel. Never once did he point out, "because of this and this, therefore you know I'm the Messiah."
What he did was healed the sick, cast out demons, multiplied lunch. Pretty much every time he taught, he also did miracles. And pretty much every time he did a miracle, he used that to teach. Jesus did not use logic, He used signs and wonders. He healed the sick and cast out demons, and then declared that to be who God is.
I had been taught (I don't know if you got stuck in the same place I did) that knowing and obeying the Word was the answer. It’s valuable; and it’s not the answer. But it would be easy to foolishly go to the opposite end of the spectrum and say that knowing and obeying the word is irrelevant. That would be complete hogwash. The answer is (in my opinion today) that the Word is the best tool we have for knowing God. But it's only a tool; it's not the goal; the goal is that relationship; the goal is knowing God.
The message that Jesus brought was also not about the Bible of His day. He didn't ignore the Word; He used it. But the message He brought was "Follow me." It was "The Kingdom of God is at hand." It was about "I am the Way." The gospel that Jesus brought was focused on Himself. And Jesus used signs and wonders to introduce people to God.
Discover, Develop, Deploy
Full Time Ministry
Metaphors for Wise Warfare
The End of Times
It seems that such talk is probably normal. I’m told that every generation since Jesus walked the planet has thought that they might be the last generation. Even the 12 disciples (well, the 11; Judas had left by then) got caught up in a Last Days focus:
4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from
So Jesus is saying, “Get ready for the Holy Spirit,” the boys’ first thought is “Is this the end times? How soon will the end be?” And like us, they’re asking with the assumption that their view of the end is right; they don’t ask, “Will the kingdom be restored to
What I really love is Jesus’ answer: “That’s not what this is about boys. This is about power; this is about you being my witnesses everywhere you go, both nearby and far away.”
In His answer, I hear something of a rebuke – or at least a correction – of their fascination with figuring out the end times.
Some time ago, I felt the Lord correct my own focus on eschatology through this verse. It’s like He was saying to me personally, “Don’t focus on understanding the end times. Focus instead on the Holy Spirit. I want you to have His power because you have a job to do. I want you to focus instead on being my witness in this world!”
In other words: leave off the emphasis on The End Times. I’m wasting my time focusing on that. The real emphasis needs to be on my work – our work – here on this planet, among these people in this region.
I recognize that this is clearly specific instruction for me; I wonder if there’s some wisdom for other saints in this correction as well. I’ve often felt that a focus on the end times, particularly a focus on “the rapture”, has led many of us to miss God’s heart.
It’s actually pretty difficult to pay a lot of attention on The End Times in our culture and not come away with a self-centered sense of “Jesus is going to rescue from all this!” (Mike Bickle and the iHop team seem to be doing a good job of avoiding that egotistical error.) Many of the brethren I know who focus on eschatology have turned some or all of their attention away from our work while we are in this world (the “be my witnesses” part) and have focused more on His presumed role of rescuing us from this world.
I keep remembering that Jesus said we need to pray this way: “…your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, pray that His kingdom would expand here on Earth, that there would be more of us homo sapiens who place ourselves under His kingship. That’s what our focus is supposed to be. (And of course, we’re not talking about a political kingdom, but the increase of His rule in individuals in our culture.)
That means that a fair bit of my prayers – and presumably my attention – is to be on seeing His kingdom expanding in my community. But if I’m focusing my attention on my belief that “Jesus is coming soon!” to swoop down and carry me away from my community, then how helpful can I actually be at expanding His kingdom here? I’m not saying the Rapture isn’t going to happen; I’m saying it shouldn’t be our focus.
Instead, I am proposing that we back off on looking for the end of this age, and that we put our efforts into fulfilling His purpose for us in this age; being empowered by the Holy Spirit and being His witnesses in this world, both near and far.
Multi Level Marketing
Multi-Level Marketing is Expensive:
1. It costs relationships. Multi-level marketing (MLM), by its very design and nature, changes my relationships. People are no longer only my friends or family, but must become—to some degree—prospects for the business. MLM requires by its very nature that you bring others into it. I have not been willing to pay that price.
Furthermore, some of the relationships that are spent are those of my family. MLM works well only if both husband and wife are equally committed to and enthused about “the business.” But even then, the time and attention siphoned away from my family relationships is hard for me to live with. Besides, I’ll miss our golf games on Fridays if that’s part of the cost.
And beyond all that, every successful MLM that I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot!) virtually requires my joining their social subculture in order to be “successful.”
2. It costs time. Any business endeavor will require an investment in time. Ten hours a week (such as is often quoted) strikes me as idealistic, but even if it is true, I have other uses for those hours that are more consistent with my long term (eg. ten thousand years and beyond) goals. Ten hours a week usually means ten hours on a quiet week and more on other weeks. But even ten hours a week comes out to 520 hours in a year, or the equivalent of three months of full-time work every year. I’d rather spend that with my family, or with baby believers, or even raking out my lawn!
3. It costs money. Likewise, any business will require a significant financial investment. Even if I don’t buy product to sell (but then what would I show my customers?), I must buy advertising, brochures, gas to attend meetings, costs for meals & conferences, meals for some meetings, bookkeeping paraphernalia, office space, etc. TANSTAAFL, you know.
4. It costs focus. MLM is, by its nature, an opportunistic business. That means that when I find an opportunity, I must seize it and make the presentation. (Rather like evangelism, though it’s an either/or situation. One can’t evangelize for both MLM and
5. It costs reputation. Thanks to Amway, MLM has a really bad name in America: a low-life, get-rich-quick reputation. Of course, people involved in MLM aren’t always “low-life, get-rich-quick” people, but you’d be hard pressed to convince many Americans of that. They hear MLM and they begin to look at you differently.
6. It costs my values. The last thing I need is a values war inside me. Many people have observed a spirit of greed in MLM adherants. In my experience, this is a very (I repeat, very) common problem with MLM. Soon, often before they even sign up, people stop seeing a business and start seeing dollar signs. This is largely related to the way many MLM members promote “the business:” “Look at the potential,” they say. “Think of the things you could do with the money!” I know, this is not a given. It is a serious danger; one that I choose not to expose myself or my family to. I don’t want any of my family flirting with the lust of the eyes or the boastful pride of life.
7. It costs my self-esteem. When I am in MLM, I am associated with values that are opposed to my personal core values. I am part of a group that is considered “low-life, get-rich-quick” by people whose opinions I hope to influence. I get a dozen “No thank you” and a handful of “Hell No’s” for every “I’ll think about it.”
The official figures are that one out of every twelve presentations will be interested in the business and one out of every ten persons who signs up will do anything with it. (These figures come from Amway.) That means one out of every 120 people I take the time to make presentations to will be influenced by “the business.” That’s a lot of work.
The concept of “If you work hard at your business, you can be very successful,” is true for most businesses, most jobs. If I own a drug store and work with as much focus and dedication as is required to make a success of the MLM business, I’ll be a wealthy drug-store owner before long.
Benefits of Multi Level Marketing
Now, lest I be found guilty of one-sidedness, I should present some of the “other side:”
1. If your boss is involved, it may be the “politically correct” thing to do.
2. If you are willing to pay the price(s), MLM can indeed make you rich. My personal opinion is that nobody does it better than Amway, but then Amway has so many people and so much exposure that it’s hard to make it to the big time with them. (A note about startup MLMs: the support services are usually pretty skimpy.)
3. If everything goes exactly as planned (not a regular occurance in our world, but it does happen), you can end up with a sizable residual income, if the MLM company doesn't go bankrupt. (Most do.)
Having said all that, it occurs to me that perhaps I should explain where my opinions come from.
I have studied MLM quite closely. I have a friend who is in an Amway offshoot and is probably going to be rich before he’s my age. He and I have spent probably 100 hours or more discussing Amway and other MLMs (he had studied several before joining his organization). He is a single man who is fanatically devoted to his group. He got a job as a taxi driver simply so he can have contact with more people to “present the business” to. He reads dozens of books, listens to hundreds of tapes and CD’s, hangs out with his “upline”, and attends lots of meetings. He makes several presentations a week and has built a substantial organization. He probably spends (or spent, when I knew him), 15 hours a week actively working on the business, but it consumed him.
I have also studied several MLM companies fairly intentionally. I’ve gone to meetings, read magazines and books, evaluated programs, propaganda, and merchandise. I’ve interviewed both winners and losers in a load of programs: NuSkin, Herbal Life, NSA, Quorum, Amway, Shaklee, Fuller Brush (yes, they went through a MLM stage) and a dozen or more others selling everything from diet plans to insurance and annuities to houses to home security systems to home computers. I’ve named Amway in my concerns above, but every single issue (or “cost”) that I raise above has been found in every single MLM organization I’ve looked at. No exceptions that I’ve yet found.
And last but not least. I have been personally involved in two different MLM programs. My experiences from the inside have confirmed everything I had observed from the outside.
Why did I join? I wanted to invest some of my “spare” time and make some money. It seemed like a good thing at the time. I had been approached by a man I respected. What did it cost? Every thing I’ve mentioned above and more. For years, I carried a sizable debt from the last endeavor. I know whereof I speak.
Multi-level Marketing opportunities are everywhere, and they have a measure of truth in them. If you are willing to give your life to “the business”, you can make a lot of money in some of them. They are naïve (or worse) in their communication of how much work is required. That work is better spent, more cleanly spent, in other places.